FRANKFURT (Bloomberg) -- Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Mueller said the automaker is sticking to investment plans and continues to view the U.S. as a core market, ahead of critical meetings this week with government officials over its admission that it rigged emission tests on its so-called clean diesel vehicles.
"We are totally committed to making things right," Mueller said on Sunday in a speech in Detroit before the auto show in the city. “We know we deeply disappointed our customers, the responsible government bodies and the general public here in the U.S. I apologize for what went wrong at Volkswagen.”
VW is in the midst of complex talks with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about possible fixes for about 480,000 diesel cars with 2.0-liter engines. The regulator last Monday said the talks haven’t produced “an acceptable way forward.” The Department of Justice sued the same day, a case that could cost the automaker billions of dollars in fines.
A relatively easy and cheap technical solution for some 8.5 million affected cars in Europe won't work for cars in the U.S. due to technical differences and stricter diesel emission rules.
Mueller will meet with EPA head Gina McCarthy Thursday in Washington to try find a way forward. His appearance in Detroit and the planned meetings in Washington are part of Mueller's first trip to the U.S. in his new role after the former head of VW's Porsche sports-car brand in September replaced Martin Winterkorn, who was forced out when the manipulation scandal came to light.
Global sales of the namesake VW brand fell 4.8 percent to 5.8 million vehicles in 2015, the first decline in 11 years, including a 7.9 percent dip in December. VW brand deliveries dropped 9.1 percent to 30,956 autos that month in the U.S., despite a record year of growth for other companies. Volkswagen's emissions cheating emerged there in September.
Global deliveries for the 12-brand VW Group dropped below the 10 million-car milestone reached last year, declining by 2 percent to 9.93 million as the Chinese market slowed and the company's cheating on diesel emissions deterred customers. Deliveries were also hit by tanking markets in Brazil and Russia.
Mueller reiterated that the VW Group will add 20 new electric and plug-in hybrid cars to its lineup by 2020. The manufacturer is presenting a concept for the plug-in hybrid version of its revamped Tiguan compact SUV at the Detroit show. Production of an updated and redesigned Tiguan started last week.
VW is investing about $900 million on producing a new midsize SUV at its U.S. factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to better meet tastes of U.S. customers.
VW improved sales in Europe and China in recent years while lagging far behind global rivals in the U.S.
"Volkswagen must further deepen its understanding of the United States," Mueller said.